by T.L. Beeding
They were back.
Just beyond the tree line, twinkling like stars in the heavens, the lights were back. There were thousands of them, lazily weaving and bobbing between leafless branches that twisted up toward the sky like gnarled fingers. Flitting around barren, knotted trunks and rotted fence posts speckled with remaining snow. They flashed in some muted language, radiant waves of luminescence that rose and fell beyond the perimeter of the farm.
Fireflies, the elders called them. Sent by the gods to prophesy change. They wouldalways appear a few days before the flow of life altered, encompassing the village but never entering its bounds. Only floating as they did now, watching and waiting. The fireflies could be both messengers of life or messengers of death, but their intentions were always shrouded in silent mystery until whatever change they brought began to unfold.
Prima had never seen the fireflies until now. She had been cutting away rotten, dying husks of corn in the field when rivers of gold illuminated the dusky sunset, bleeding down the mountains from the throne of the gods. Flowing on unseen currents through every street. It was the most beautiful sight she had ever witnessed – but her father had been terrified. Big hands clasped her shoulders, starling Prima from her reverie and dragging her inside, away from their fruitless crop. He drew the rough-spun curtains and locked the door, refusing to even light a candle for fear the fireflies would see it.
“Be still, Prima,” he whispered in warning, hitching up the steed when the glittering gold had settled within the trees. “Let them see you not. Until we know what type of change they bring, we must prepare for the worst.” And with assurances of a swift return, he had ridden into the darkness that began to creep across the horizon.
The fireflies’ glow brightened with each twilight that came thereafter. Their refulgent tapestry was inviting, coaxing Prima out of hiding every night after her father left for the village center. Bringing a smile to her lips. She was well-versed in the stories of the gods and their wickedness – but she knew the forgotten stories of their love, as well. When she had come of the age of devotion, her prayers were not of terrified appeasement like the rest of the village. They were of praise and joy. Of requesting change, not fearing it. And when Prima looked upon the fireflies tonight, wandering into the dying fields to be closer to them, she felt no fear.
She only felt the change.
Come, the gentle breeze whispered. The fireflies brightened. Come.
Crushed stalks of corn and barley stood as she passed them, poking up through the muddy slush and ice. Regaining life. Snow melted beneath her bare feet, blades of grass sprouting greener than before. Grey skies that plagued the village since this harshest winter started to clear. But Prima never looked back. She reached the fringe of the decayed wood, stepping over the broken fence, stretching splayed hands forward. The fireflies came down from the trees, dancing between her fingers, enveloping her – pressing themselves to her cheeks in warm, tender kisses under branches that began to blossom.
Come. Up the craggy face of the mountain, toward the throne of the gods, she could feel it. A bright, pulsating sensation that matched the messengers in their flashing. They ushered her forward, in a stream of light. There was no telling what lay ahead, yet there was no doubt what she had left behind. What she had prayed for, to save her village from its own self-destruction and fear. What she was, and had always been.
Change – as foretold.